Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 8/7/2019 (1046 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The hero has pink hair. She is gay, she loathes Donald Trump and she fights for women’s rights. She scores goals. She leads. She inspires. She is — after lifting the World Cup in France — the leading figure in women’s sport, and, for a refreshing moment, however brief, in American sport generally.
Megan Rapinoe, whose second-half penalty proved the winner for the United States in Sunday’s 2-0 win over the Netherlands, struck a familiar pose following her ice-cold spot-kick — arms outstretched, a smile on her face, a happy statuette seeming to say, "Here I am and what I am. Joyful! Winning! Be proud with me!" In what is her supreme moment, it’s as if she’s welcoming the world to share in her triumph. Here’s hoping the moment lasts a while longer, still.
To watch Rapinoe play at the World Cup was to contemplate a person who had already overcome, a female footballer whose many inevitable anxieties were being conquered on the pitch, in real time, at the expense of opponents she and her teammates dispatched one after the next. On Sunday, she arrived at Parc Olympique Lyonnais for the tournament’s final with a grin on her face.
And after 90 minutes — in which Rose Lavelle also found the back of the net after a determined, direct run and sensational finish — Rapinoe lifted the trophy she and the United States seemed fated to win with that same beaming expression.
For her six goals, five of which came in the knockout stages, she was awarded the Golden Ball as the competition’s most valuable player. For everything she is and all the she stands for, she won the admiration of millions back home and all around the world. Needless to say, it’s the latter that means the most.
Rapinoe (who else?) headlines our Team of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Goalkeeper: Sari van Veenendaal: Netherlands fans have a chant: "We are not afraid, because Sari is there!" But for the 29-year-old’s heroics, the United States might have won the final by a rather more lopsided scoreline.
Right-back: Lucy Bronze: One of the more breathtaking sights at the World Cup was seeing Bronze take flight and lead the England attack from the right-hand side. Her goal against Norway in the quarterfinals was one of the best of the tournament.
Central defender: Abby Dahlkemper: The most reliable of the United States defenders in France, she helped contain the explosive attacks of the host country and England before putting in a commanding performance against the Netherlands on Sunday.
Central defender: Steph Houghton: Had she scored from the spot against the United States, the final might have had a different look. But the England captain was rock-solid at the back during the World Cup, underlining her status as one of the best defenders in the world.
Left-back: Dominique Bloodworth: With teammate Lieke Martens battling form and injury, Bloodworth was forced to do even more down the left flank for the Netherlands.
Midfielder: Rose Lavelle: The Bronze Ball winner, Lavelle was the best midfielder at the World Cup and scored a spectacular goal following a solo run against the Netherlands in the final.
Midfielder: Kosovare Asllani: Sweden weren’t exactly expected to make much of an impact in France, and that they managed to finish third was down in large part to the Linkopings FC playmaker. A creative presence who frequently released teammates Sofia Jakobsson and Stina Blackstenius to score, she found the back of the net three times, herself, including in the third-place playoff against England.
Midfielder: Daniëlle van de Donk: The Netherlands’ biggest strength at the World Cup was their ability to control the centre of the park, and Arsenal’s van de Donk commanded midfield until the final against the United States.
Forward: Sam Kerr: Australia went out on penalties in the round of 16, but not before Kerr — perhaps the best striker in the world — had delivered an astonishing quadruple against Jamaica to get them there.
Forward: Ellen White: Even the United States couldn’t keep the dominant England forward from scoring. She scored in the round of 16, the quarterfinals and the semifinals, and finished the World Cup with a tournament-tying six goals.
Forward: Megan Rapinoe: Her face was the portrait of the World Cup. Her voice was the soundtrack. Her joy was its spirit. Rapinoe is already an all-time great because of her exploits on the pitch, which lifting the trophy capped beautifully. But her impact will long reverberate in the lives of women, girls and non-binary folk — indeed everyone she captivated over the past month. She is a leader and a champion. She is the hero with pink hair.